Compliments That Don’t Feel Like Compliments

Article - February 28, 2014

confusedLet’s say you spent weeks working on what you consider to be your best project yet. Hours were dedicated to wood selection alone followed by weeks of effort in the joinery and construction. A week was spent perfecting the finish alone! With all of this emotional and physical investment, you finally bring the piece in from the shop for your family and friends to enjoy. Most compliments are the typical supportive pats on the back you expect from your loved ones, but then someone drops a bomb on you. They say something that is totally meant as a compliment, but your woodworker’s brain doesn’t quite know how to process it. Here are a few examples that I frequently hear.

“That feels like plastic!”

What the woodworker hears: “You spent all this time working on a natural wood product only to end up with something that feels like it was generated in a laboratory by a machine.”

What they meant: “The finish on this piece is so smooth and so perfect that it has a similar feel to plastic. You are incredibly skilled to be able to produce such a finish in your shop!”

“That looks better than store-bought!”

What the woodworker hears: “I am so surpised that you were able to make something that looks better than that particle board crap sold at Walmart!”

What they meant: “I usually only associate quality with manufactured products because my experience with hand-made furniture is quite limited. Therefore I am pleasantly surprised that you are able to make something that actually looks better than a comparable product that was mass-produced by a company with millions of dollars invested in the production of said product.”

“You built that?!”

What the woodworker hears: “I can’t believe you are actually skilled enough to make that!”

What they meant: “I had no idea you were such a skilled and capable craftsman! I am very impressed!”

I know I can’t be alone in this observation. What compliments have you received that didn’t initially FEEL like a compliment?


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